While we've got some time here in the offseason, let's go over our history. Those who don't know their history are bound to think that the world started and stopped with Nick Saban. Perish the thought. If we're going to pull together to start a new, beautiful Southwest Conference, we may as well know who the hell we're inviting. This week let's get to know the last joining member of the old SWC, your Houston Cougars.
The offensive line on Houston's 1946 Inaugural team averaged 192.2 pounds with two players under 180.
Houston 2017 starting offensive line averaged 302.2 pounds.
Houston played the first regular season football game in the newly finished Astrodome on September 11, 1965. The $31 million facility debuted with the Cougars taking on Tulsa, all broadcast on NBC. Tulsa was no pushover; the Golden Hurricanes ran a progressive passing offense that led them to a Bluebonnet Bowl win over Ole Miss in 1964.
37, 138 fans showed up to see the Coogs kick off 1965, they left disappointed. Houston crossed midfield just three times as Tulsa won on the concrete like playing surface 14-0. The most exciting moves of the day came during some fisticuffs between the two squads.
Warren McVea fumbled four times, and Houston never got on track.
Minutes after the game a hundred workers descended on the field to prep the surface for the Astros/Giants series starting on Monday night.
Not So Grand Opening
When Houston opened its sparkling new TDECU Stadium on August 29, 2014, the Cougars welcomed relative newcomer UTSA to its shiny digs. UTSA made themselves right at home.
The star of Amazon's All or Nothin Documentary John O'Korn welcomed UTSA with four interceptions and a fumble while UTSA's David Glasco ran for 81 yards and a score. The cherry on top of the crap sandwich came when Houston punter Dylan Seibert fumbled a snap that trickled 42 yards to the UTSA three that set up Glasco's score.
Final score UTSA 27 Houston 7.
National Titles: 0
Conference Titles: 11
Missouri Valley: 1952, 1956, 1957, 1959
SWC: 1976, 1978, 1979, 1984
CUSA: 1996, 2005
In Playboy's 1969 Football Preview the venerable adult institution named the Cougars as the favorite to win the National Title. The Coogs were coming off a 1968 season that saw them set an NCAA record for yards per game. More importantly, Houston was coming off NCAA probation.
But it wasn't meant to be, 7th ranked Houston stumbled out of the gate losing to Florida and Oklahoma State in back to back weeks. Houston would eventually reel off nine straight wins to end the season, including a 36-7 Bluebonnet Bowl ass kicking of top 15 ranked Auburn and finish 12th in the final AP ballot.
Hugh Hefner's esteemed magazine cost a dollar in 1969.
As much as the millennials want to point to right now as the golden age of Cougar football and make us eat artisan cornbread, we're going back to the Cougar's entrance into the SWC, 1976-1978. For as long as the league tried to keep Houston off its membership, when Houston got in, the 1976 Cougars stormed the gates, unseating Texas, Arkansas, and pretty good A&M and Tech teams to win the league in their first season and finish fourth in the final AP Poll balloting. After climbing as high as 9th in the 1977 AP Poll, the Coogs stumbled down the stretch.
If anyone thought the Cougars were a one-hit wonder, they were shocked when Houston won the whole damn league twice more in 1978 and 1979. That '79 team was a home loss to Texas away from going undefeated and beat 7th ranked Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl. Houston finished 5th in the Final AP Poll. As impressive as anything was an October trip to number four ranked Arkansas, where Houston ground and pounded a win over Lou Holtz' 10-2 Hogs.
From 1993 to 2002 the Cougars endured the worst period in their program's history. They survived an amazingly long Kim Helton era, in spite of his 31% winning percentage. The 1996 Liberty Bowl trip gave Helton seven more years, but by the time he won seven games in 1999, coming after back-to-back three-win seasons, no one was buying what Kim was selling. Chet Gladchuck let him go and bought out the final two years of his contract. Andre Ware and David Klingler both expressed interest in the job, but Gladchuck already hired Clyde Drexler to coach the basketball team a decision that earned Houston 19 wins in two seasons, so Gladchuck was a bit gun shy of former players with no coaching experience.
The Coogs turned to current UTEP coach Dana Dimel who proceeded to drive the bus off the ravine entirely in 2001 with a winless season. The good news? After Dimel, Houston hired Art Briles, and they haven't missed on a coaching hire since.
Bill Bridges OL 1969
Leonard Mitchell DL 1980
Ed Oliver DL 2017
Jason Phillips WR 1988
Rich Stotter OL 1967
Andre Ware QB 1989
Wilson Whitley DL 1976
Elmo Wright E 1970
The Historic Impact of Bill Yeoman
In December of 1961, Houston hired a young running back coach from Michigan State to take over its middling football program. Bill Yeoman would guide the program for a quarter century. And it almost didn't happen.
Yeoman, a West Point grad, was a front-runner for the vacant Black Knights' opening. Born in Indiana but reared in Texas, Yeoman attended Texas A&M for two years before he received his coveted West Point Appointment. Yeoman was a captain of the 1948 Army team and played and later coached under legendary head man Red Blaik. Houston had the foresight to act quickly and snap up the 34-year old off Duffy Daugherty's Michigan State staff.
The early 60s were a time of great transition for Houston; the school became a State institution in 1963 and Houston eyed a Southwest Conference bid.
Yeoman's time under Daugherty was influential, Daugherty was a pioneer of racial integration, having recruited African American players since the late 1940s. By the time Yeoman arrived on Daugherty's staff, the Spartans had significant in-roads into the Jim Crow south and used those connections to bring on more African American players than even most of their northern counterparts. Players like Herb Adderley, Sherman Lewis, Willie Thrower, and Don Coleman blazed a path to East Lansing.
For Yeoman, a school in the middle of the south, open to him recruiting African Americans was a chance for the Cougars to become a power. The Cougar administration may not have been in total support of Yeoman, but that didn't deter the young head coach. It didn't hurt that Guy Lewis was recruiting Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney and making Houston into a national basketball power.
Yeoman recruited players that coaches like Darrell Royal and Frank Broyles yearned to bring on their respective campuses. Players like the great Warren McVea who scorned other out of state offers, including a letter from Harry Truman enticing him to attend Missouri to attend Houston.
McVea was part of a movement that eventually even the SWC couldn't ignore. The league couldn't overlook Yeoman's Veer Offense, a scheme that brought the SWC to its knees. Where other coaches were afraid to entrust their offenses to an African American quarterback, Yeoman didn't have such biases, plus, Yeoman knew that putting his best athletes on the field gave him the best chance to win. African American quarterbacks like D.C.Nobles, Danny Davis, Delrick Brown, Lionel Wilson, and Gerald Landry became option offense artists and some of the most effective quarterbacks of the era.
While Yeoman helped integrate football in the south, he didn't view himself as a social justice icon. Instead, he saw himself as a coach first and foremost. A coach wants to give his team the best chance to win, no matter what his team looks like. That's the lasting legacy of Yeoman; he looked at the merit of an individual without regard for the color of their skin. It took people like Bill Yeoman to help change football's biased recruiting practices and break down racial barriers across the country.
There are lots of reasons to know Johnnie Jackson, he played for the 1989 Super Bowl Champion San Francisco 49ers, he's gone on to a career in education, he's in the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame.
But the real G's remember him for his three pick-six performance against Texas in 1987, a record that still stands today.
Houston hammered Texas 60-40, handing Texas its first conference loss of the '88 season and scoring the most points on a Texas team since 1904. Jackson accounted for three of those scores, terrorizing Longhorn quarterbacks Brett Stafford and Shannon Kelley. Jackson picked off Stafford once, returning that pick 31 yards for a score and Kelley twice leading to 53 and 97 yards for scores.
Jackson's roommate, Randy Thornton picked off another Kelley pass and returned it for a fourth pick six. Jackson's three interceptions returned for scores set the NCAA mark and were a dream come true for Jackson - "A game like this only happen in your dreams, and against Texas makes it only sweeter."
Houston hired its first head football coach, Jewell Wallace, away from San Angelo High School. Wallace coached at San Angelo for three seasons, winning the state title in his first year and making the semifinals in year two. Wallace's recruiting strategy centered on finding returning World War II Veterans for the Cougar's new program. Wallace didn't pan out; he resigned after two seasons and a 7-14 record.
Well, we have to do it. The lamest bit in sports - the Mount Rushmore bit. We hate it, but at this point it's obligatory. The four greatest players or coaches from Houston's history.
Bill Yeoman - The Godfather
No brainer here really, Yeoman transitioned Houston in the SWC and won three of four conference titles in their first four years in the league. An offensive genius, Yeoman, created an unstoppable offense based on a blown blocking assignment at a Cougar practice. Yeoman guided the Coogs to unseen heights in his 25 years.
Andre Ware - The Natural
Texas recruited Andre Ware, assuring him he'd get to play quarterback, just as he had for Dickinson High School, but they were lying to him, the Horns wanted Ware to play defense, so he signed with Yeoman and the Coogs. After a year at Alvin Community College, Ware came back to Third Ward and my how things had changed. Gone was the veer, and in its place was the Run and Shoot with Jack Pardee and his offensive coordinator John Jenkins. In 1989 Ware threw for 4,699 yards, and 46 touchdowns as Houston averaged 53.5 points per game. Ware set 26 NCAA records as Houston finished 9-2 and ranked 14th nationally. In December of that year, he became the first African American quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy.
Case Keenum - Mr. Consistent
We've made the argument that Case Keenum is the greatest college quarterback ever. He certainly put up the numbers. From Abilene Wylie, Keenum led Houston to 40 wins in parts of five seasons and almost 20,000 passing yards. He still holds the record for most yards, most completions, most touchdowns, and most 5,000 yard passing seasons.
Wilson Whitley - The Man in the Middle
When Houston entered the SWC, Bill Yeoman knew that the blue bloods of the league had no idea what they were in for. Wilson Whitley might've single-handedly made them regret letting the Cougars in. The Brenham Cub came to Houston after a four-year high school career, where he was All-District every year and All-State three times. Houston signed him in 1972 and defensive coordinator Don Todd promptly set Whitley into the framework of his defense. Whitley was so dominant that despite playing just one season in the Southwest Conference, the league named him Player of the Decade for the 1970s. He won the Lombardi in 1976, the first major award in Houston's history.
The Cougars were a juggernaut defense in 1976, holding five opponents to ten points or fewer. The Cougars' schedule wasn't a pushover by any stretch, Houston played #9 Texas A&M, #15 Arkansas, #20 Texas, #5 Texas Tech, and # 4 Maryland, holding their ranked opponents to just 12 points a game. Whitley was at the center of it all. He was the eight pick in the 1977 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals and played six years in the league.